1 March 2015

I received a lovely letter yesterday from a young lady at Manchester Business School asking me to talk with her class and share my journey and what I have learned.

I never thought I’d be lucky step foot in a University with the exception of dropping my kids off in a few years, so to be invited is a massive honour. To be there in a teaching capacity is even more so.

When you’re asked to do a talk I have learned it’s a good idea to get your thoughts down on paper, so here goes.

The topics are Building for success, Finding the right Partner

How do you create a success? The biggest wins and losses in a business or in life in general will all be to do with people. The first 2 sections are linked. When a business or department flourishes its down to people, when something goes horribly wrong, again its down to people.

We are defined by the myriads of decisions we make. So finding the right partner and the right teammates is everything.

Sitting in the room there will be great potential. We are stronger together than we are apart. Look for the things you are weakest at and find someone who fills that gap.

Done correctly there are no egos, it just works. Done wrong it’s a disaster waiting to happen.

Rolls – salesman
Royce – mechanical engineer

Find a partner who understand you. Someone who raises your game.

Find a partner who understand you. Someone who raises your game.

When I recruited Gail, it was because I’d learned from a decade of mess ups that I needed someone to take care of the detail as it was time consuming and difficult for me to deal with. Yet sales and marketing is something I am immensely passionate about.

So work out what you enjoy. Whatever you enjoy doing you will do best and you will obsess about.

The same applies to the next layer down. When you are recruiting look for the gaps that are appearing and fill them with great people.

What is a great person?

When you are recruiting at every level, board, partners or office workers, culture is the single most important focus. Especially when you are small. When I recruited Gail, I was literally doubling in size. I can either strengthen the culture at this stage or dilute it. The same applies with your second recruit. You are now growing by 50% and so on.

Never dilute your culture. Employ people you’d get along with. After all it’s a tough journey ahead and you want people you can rely on and seek counsel when it goes wrong.

Every great partnership has the ying and yang approach. Tim Bacon of Living Ventures another great business in Manchester has Jeremy who is the guy behind the scenes keeping the cogs moving whilst Tim’s energy drives the business.

WeBuyAnyCar.com has Noel a tremendous front man. A one in a million extraordinary character. But Noel’s brother Darren is a key ingredient to that business. He is obsessed with cars of all types and knows every detail and price of every make and model. Yes they’d both be successful separately, but to the same degree? I doubt it. Noel’s massive drive means that a business needs to be accurate when you drive it at such speed. His brother gives him that.

James and John Timpson, 2 remarkable inspirations.

Chris and Michael Oglesby, father and son relationship behind Bruntwood’s phenomenal success.

It interesting out of all these and other successful partnerships how many are family.

People look at Branson and marvel at his entrepreneurial spirit, however anyone who has met Joan his straight talking Glaswegian wife will realise that she is an important part of the genetic make up that makes Richard successful.

So if you are choosing a partner, you are probably looking for the next big thing to invest your time and money in.

How do you choose your direction?

The simplest way I have seen this described is by Jim Collins, author and Stamford Professor. He writes about the hedgehog principal. 3 cricles that if you don’t score highly in all three, don’t even bother.

  • Can you be the best at it?
  • Are you passionate about it?
  • Does it make financial sense?

Looking back at the growth of UKFast it’s a miracle we made it through the first decade.

Can you be the best at it?
Back then with just 2 of us we realised we needed to get expert help in. We recruited a Neil, described as a super geek. Between the three of us we covered everything and yes we believed we were the best. The problem with wanting to be the best, it’s a never-ending journey, one you can never rest.

Are you passionate about it?

Hell yea! I’d set up UKFast after being so frustrated and getting annoyed with the then largest supplier of internet services in Manchester. You will never get driven by money. You might think you will, but the real driving forces in life come from love, passion and all the emotions that unsettle and inspire us. Money is a by product of this passion. Its important you don’t get the 2 confused.

You see this when things get really tough in business and there is no money. This is the time that people quit. But if you love it you can never quit, you have to make it work. This is UKFast for us.


Financially right?

Tough one to predict. But UKFast for example was born off a previous business model where I rented Grand Pianos to hotels. Long after the business had gone, I still had the pianos rented out, with small amounts of money dripping in each month without fail in an organized fashion. I didn’t know my next business at the time, but I knew it had to follow that model.

The final part of the jigsaw starting up is the inspiration. How do you get inspired and how do you inspire others?
Turn the hedgehog principal on its head and ask yourself this.

What do we need to do to improve every aspect of our business and set new standards and inspire the whole market place?

How do we keep everyone growing and developing, customers and team, in order to drive the passion in the brand?

What can we do financially to contribute to both the clients but the team at UKFast to enrich their lives in every way we can?

If you can answer these questions, it doesn’t matter whether you are a 2 man band, like me and Gail or Rolls and Royce, Noel and Darren, James and John. You will change the world. Maybe not in your lifetime, but the influences you start today will ripple in the pond long after we are gone. Go and make a difference, get inspired. Inspire others and never, ever give up.

Good luck on that journey. Be bold and keep in touch and let me know how you are getting on.

Lawrence Jones MBE

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